The talk following the Philadelphia Eagles second preseason game surrounded the health of quarterback Michael Vick. The former felon was once again knocked out of the contest, this time with a rib injury, and he now competes with ex-teammate Kevin Kolb for the NFLs Most Injury-Prone Quarterback Trophy (i.e the Chad Pennington Award).
Vick's fragility is the center of sports conversation in the City of Brotherly Love, and not just because of the rapid speed at which the Phillies Window of Opportunity snapped shut. In the minds of many Eagles fans, Vick's inability to stay on the field is the only obstacle between them and that unbelievably elusive Lombardi trophy.
While a serious injury to Vick wouldn't be a good thing, it wouldn't ensure certain disaster, either. Rookie Nick Foles has looked beyond serviceable in both preseason games, and Andy Reid has proven time and time again he can win with back-up quarterbacks. Just ask Koy Detmer. Or A.J. Feeley. Or Kevin Kolb.
The Eagles offense will find success in 2012, even if Vick misses significant time. But the biggest obstacle standing between Eagles fans and a parade down Broad Street is the clearly in-over-his-head defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo.
Last offseason, Reid promoted his long-time offensive line coach and put him in a position he was blatantly and obviously unqualified for. The Results: the Juan Castillo Defense lost five fourth-quarter leads to notable gun-slingers like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alex Smith, and Josh Skelton. Not exactly a Pro Bowl trio, to be sure.
And it looks like little has changed. In what felt like a 2011 instant replay, Castillo's starters gave up a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to some guy named Ryan Mallett on Monday night. Twice during the drive, defensive penalties on 3rd down kept New England on the field. Like last year, the Eagles D seemed completely incapable of sniffing out a running back screen, or getting to the quarterback on third down.
No evidence exists to suggest Castillo can right the ship. This was the same guy who thought starting fourth round rookie Casey Matthews at middle linebacker without the benefit of offseason OTAs was a good idea. You don't need to be Dick LeBeau to realize that's a plan doomed from the start.
That being said, Coach Reid has won a lot of football games in his bar mitzvah's worth of seasons in Philadelphia. Well aware of his own short leash, Big Red must have seen something from Castillo that gave him confidence in retaining the defensive coordinator for what could be his own career defining season -- for better or worse.
Fans of Reid can only hope so. In a game like football, where one missed opportunity can define an entire season, Castillo's ineptitude could end up costing Reid his job.
After all, the Eagles head coach hasn't won a playoff game since 2008. Not coincidentally, that was the last year Reid had Jim Johnson running his defense.